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City of Las Cruces Hosts Cannabis Town Hall

Jul 23, 2021

Credit NIDA

With the passage of New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulation Act, the city of Las Cruces is now focused on how best to manage its relationship with the adult-use cannabis industry, hosting an interactive town hall to discuss zoning and other proposed regulatory actions.

Las Cruces Assistant City Manager Ikani Taumoepeau explained that New Mexico cities don’t have the same kind of control that other states, such as California, have historically given local governments.

“City councils had the opportunity to opt-out, they could completely ban recreational cannabis in the city,” Taumoepeau said. “Here in New Mexico, what is happening is, once this was approved by the state, earlier this year…the city councils do not have the local autonomy that we saw in California or even Colorado.”

While not lawfully allowed to approve an adult-use cannabis ban, both municipalities and counties have some limited control—including implementing ‘rules that reasonably limit density of licenses and operating times consistent with neighborhood uses.’

Taumoepeau also says the city will receive revenue from both a cannabis excise tax and gross receipts tax. He highlighted how the excise tax will impact the city of Las Cruces.

“There is an excise tax, built into the state statute, that allows 12% before the year 2024,” Taumoepeau said. “And of that 12%, 33% of that excise tax goes back to the city of Las Cruces. 33% of that 12% equals 4%. 4% is essentially what the city would get.”

That 4% will grow over the next few years—by 2030 the City of Las Cruces is expected to receive approximately 6% from excise tax.

Just what will be done with the extra tax revenue will be decided by the Las Cruces City Council. While it’s too soon to know just how the funds will be allocated, Councilor Gabe Vasquez offered some ideas during the town hall meeting.

“The city council will decide in the future what we do with that tax,” Vasquez said. “Whether we reinvest those funds into schools, into drug rehabilitation, into public safety, into any number of issues, even housing, we can do a lot with the revenue that we will gain from this new industry.”

Vasquez says the city will continue to seek out public input on the best way to spend cannabis tax revenue, adding that adult-use cannabis will help to diversify the Las Cruces economy.

“We have an opportunity as a city, to regulate various things like zoning, hours of operation and indoor and outdoor consumption or smoking,” Vasquez said. “This is a complete new industry for the city of Las Cruces and for all of New Mexico. When we talk about diversifying our economy, I personally believe that this is one of the ways that we will do that.”

City staff is currently recommending at least 1,000 feet between cannabis businesses, though special-use permits can be sought from a business seeking to break that rule.

The limitation is something Chad Lozano, the former secretary of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Advocacy Alliance, disagrees with. Speaking out at the meeting, Lozano says he feels there should be no limits on how close together businesses can operate.  

“There's bars who are right next door to each other, I don't see why we shouldn't be able to do that with cannabis,” Lozano said. “We have limited space. We're not as big as other cities. I think, you know, if they want to be next door, they should be allowed to be.”

Councilor Gabe Vasquez says that number is not set in stone as it still needs to be approved by the city council.

“My thoughts are that we have very limited retail opportunities or at least more limited, smaller square footage,” Vasquez said. “If you think it should be 500 feet, 600 feet, to allow the economic opportunity and allow more small businesses within an appropriate distance then please, please provide that public comment.”

Another town hall on the subject is scheduled for Thursday, August 12. Residents interested in providing public feedback may fill out the City of Las Cruces Cannabis Survey before it closes on August 15.